Frog in knots

Knitting, knots and frogging.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hong Kong Phooey

Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting,
Rain was knitting as fast as lightning,

In fact it was a little bit frightening,

But she knits with expert timing.

I really have been knitting like lightning despite being surrounded by my mother and Hong Kong Scout up there fighting over a squeaky toy, it's bedlam round here at times and I'm surprised I get anything done.

There will be pandas starving all over China as I have been buying up bamboo needles from Hong Kong at a crazy pace. I discovered an eBay Shop - Joyce Super Shop - selling all kinds of knitting needles and crochet hooks at a silly price. I have to admit to being a little wary at buying from Hong Kong, you do hear a lot of horror stories about eBay but as the seller had mostly good feedback I went for it.

My recent purchases have been (in sets) 15 80 cm long circular needles, 14 20cm long 5 needle sets of DPNs and 15 pairs of 36 cm long straights.

It might seem a bit mad buying so many new needles as I'm hardly lacking in that department, however, it's been a bargain that seemed daft to pass up on. If you fancy some yourself they have several combinations of needles and sell numerous sets of varying types and lengths every day. It's worth looking on their international eBay pages as the cost is roughly the same whether you buy them in £, US $, Aussie $ or Euros. As they have so many sets available there's no need to get into a bidding war with anyone as there are plenty for sale in the following days. Basically the bidding tends to start around 0.99 whatever the local currency is, but the shipping costs are inflated to cover the low price. The cost (including shipping) came to £10 for the circs, £13 for the DPNs and £11 for the straights. I thought that was ridiculously cheap for so many needles.

The are a few drawbacks - the needles are made in metric sizes increasing by 0.5 mm (starting at 2 mm and going up to 12 mm). This means that some of the smaller UK and US sizes that are .25 or .75 mm are not available. The circs are not the same as usual sets, rather than a solid cord there is a plastic tube between the needles (which doesn't curl!). I personally have found the join to be ok when using them (I've magic looped with them too), but I don't think they'd withstand abusive use i.e. swinging your knitting around your head or dragging a heavy afghan about the house by the needles. They are a little rough on arrival but with a gentle sanding they are a dream to use. I love them and can't recommend them enough.

One thing I would say about the company is that they say they will combine postage if you buy more then one set on one day, but it seems to be a common complaint that they don't. Otherwise shipping is good, they arrive well packaged and mine came with 7, 6 and 3 days of dispatch. There are people buying these needles and then reselling them at an inflated price. With 3 separate orders I haven't had a problem with the company so would say buy direct.

Now I'm off to make the mother of all needle rolls to keep them in.......

Disclaimer: I am not on commission, I just thought they were a great bargain and thought I'd pass it on.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jiminy Cricket

Personally, I have always looked upon cricket as organised loafing. - William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury 1925.

Cricket is one of those games that is classed as a 'boys' game in English schools, so the girls rarely play it and very few have any concept of the rules. I wasn't so lucky. My brothers both played, but the one closest in age to me was exceptional at it. Muggins here is also rather good at it - well bowling anyway because Boy Wonder needed someone to practise with. Granted at times most younger sisters would take great delight in throwing a very hard leather ball at their brother but it gets awfully boring never being allowed to bat. Since we're very much a sporting family (5 siblings and an inbuilt competitive nature) I'm very keen to encourage my nephews in various sports. That's why I didn't mind being conned into making Kyle a cricket slipover when he was chosen for the school team.

Cricket is a game which the British, not being a spiritual people, had to invent in order to have some concept of eternity. - Lord Mancroft

Thanks goodness he didn't want sleeves. I know the feeling on the eternity front, this took forever to knit. Cables bore me. There - I said it! They bore me. Although I started this with gusto I definitely tapered off towards the end. I had wanted it done for last weekend but took 3 days off from knitting as an avoidance tactic. The knitty gritty - I almost went for a cotton blend for this, but then I remembered that cream is a ridiculous colour for cricket as the players get covered in grass stains so I went for acrylic instead. I figured something that could be thrown in the washer and tumble dryer would be appreciated more by my sister. It took 200g of cream plus scraps to match his school uniform. It's quite a soft acrylic and feels really nice. The pattern came from Patons Summer Collection 1987 and was slightly adapted to look like the official England team jumpers. I chose to make it in the round to save time on seaming even though it drives me nuts to knit round and round in circles. He's a gangly 11 year old so I made it a 36" chest as they are worn long and baggy, he should get wear out of it next summer too. His other great love is swimming but I don't think he'd thank me for knitted trunks.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Inside the hatch....

I have been tagged by Claire (Seahorse) to show the contents of my knitting bag with the explicit instructions

Firstly: SHOW ME THE INNARDS OF YOUR KNITTING/CRAFT BAG! I want to see entrails...

Oh dear...

My super duper ultimate combat knitting survival kit bag (TM) exists only as a pile of material next to the sewing machine. I do have the plans for it but haven't made it yet.

In the meantime - Welcome to Workstation Rain. This is the view you get from my chair.

My little organising doodah - I think it's supposed to be a magazine rack - holds everything I need for my current projects. On closer inspection - tools

The red case holds a full set of 30cm needles. I prefer shorter needes as the longer ones tend to be a bit unwieldy, my armchair swallows you up so there isn't room to be waving longer ones about. I keep a longer set in a tin that lives in the back corner of the rack. The smaller case is actually a sunglasses case that came with Marie Claire, the perfect size for holding my crochet hooks and general twiddly bits like stitch holders, row counters, needle stopper thingies, tapestry needles etc. Both cases tuck neatly into the frame so it's easy to keep everything together. The pockets on the front of the rack keep things like my DPNs, scissors and pens tidy and easy to get to. The little blue hen (kindly sent to me by Nanatoo) has taken over from Cockvell (my Bad Juju) as my pin cushion. Cockvell was doing a fine job and giving me great satisfaction every time I jabbed something into him, but Destructo-Pup a.k.a. The Jaws of Death - has taken a liking to him so I didn't want to risk the beastie getting hurt by the needles as he frequently does a runner with it.

Inside the rack I keep my WIPs which at the moment are my Lily Chin Reversible Rib Shawl, some feather and fan armwarmers (my KIP project because it fits in my handbag easily) and something in blue cotton that I'm not telling you about.

I also keep the yarn for upcoming projects in there to remind me to do them. I tend to get carried away on new projects or designs and forget that I have things that need attention. Next to be started is a pink wrap over cardigan for Scarlett in Jaeger Aqua Cotton. It's for her to wear with party dresses round about Christmas-time and for her birthday, there's no great rush but I'd like to get it done. I've also got some Twilley's wool that is calling to me but doesn't have an immediate plan. The grey thingy is one of my button up muffers that I keep forgetting to sew buttons onto.

Secondly: Name three things in there that you can't do without.

It has to be my spike. It's a knitting machine tool with a crochet hook at one end and a spike at the other. It's invaluable for picking up stitches and generally poking things. My needle gauge is also well used especially for DPNs. I tend to think in the old Imperial system of needle sizes rather than metric so it's a constant reference tool, it's got American sizes on the reverse too which also comes in handy. I also use my tape measure all the time too, although I want to trade it in for one of those really cute sheep ones (available from loads of places internationally so google for them).

And a fourth because I'm awkward and never could follow instructions - my clipboard. I keep patterns clipped onto it and a lot of paper. I get inspiration for designs at really odd moments so I like to have it around to start scribbling on.

Thirdly: Name three things in there that either shouldn't be there or that you forgot were in there:

My walkman - I'm learning to speak Mandarin so I play a tape while I'm knitting. It gets dumped there so I don't knock it on the floor.

My head lamp - WTF? I use it when I go camping or wandering around in the dark. I have absolutely no idea what it's doing in there.

The brown box - contains something for the next project for myself. To be revealed......

Anything else you want to mention:

Other than that there are other knitting supplies lurking around the house. I keep my tubs of yarn upstairs in a big cupboard and my knitting books live on a bookshelf. I also have a wee cupboard downstairs that holds ringbinders with loose patterns, semi-abandoned UFOs and general craft related bits and bobs. Plus there is my sewing box that sits next to my feet with lots of twiddly bits in it.

I've shown you mine so let's see yours! This is the bit where I'm supposed to tag 3 people to go off and show their stuff. I hate doing this as I don't want to leave anyone out. I'll do my usual chicken out by saying I'm tagging everyone who hasn't done it yet and wants to. That includes you Turtlegirl! I know all about your avoidance tactics!

p.s. If you are naive enough to think I'm really this tidy I'm not going to correct you. It ought to be called Bombsite Rain.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mo' hair

Either I can't resist a bargain or I have a compulsion for people to think I have fleas.

What is it with me and mohair at the moment? I have a whole tub dedicated to it and have just added even more. I bought this today at a charity shop, 7 x 50g balls for the grand sum of 10p each. Yes, it really is that green. I haven't got a project in mind yet, but as I've got a thing for green right now I'm sure I'll come up with something. It's 78% mohair, 13% wool, 9% nylon so a little on the itchy side, but a good dose of fabric softener should help.

I also found a knitting handbook for £2 which contains techniques, design help and a good stitch library. It looks like one built up week by week probably from the 80s, I think I'll find it quite useful.
I got the latest issue of Simply Knitting too. I wouldn't normally buy it as I think it's beyond crap but I saw the cover pattern for a lacy vest and shrug on Egeria's blog and really wanted to make it. It's a bit girly for my usual tastes but a change won't kill me.

I've been working on my nephew's cricket jumper, it's taking a wee bit longer than I expected as I'm taking more care with it than usual. Kids can be really bloody horrible to each other so I don't want it to look blatantly hand knitted as it's for him to wear at school. I decided to follow the slip pattern that goes with the cardigan I started making pre-olympics (that's due to be dug out of the cupboard soon). It has the size I need so makes life easier but I'm working in the round instead. I'm working a blank set of stitches between each cable as I'd noticed that's what the official England team jumpers are like, the stripes match his school uniform. I'm about a third done and I'd like to have it posted off to him by the weekend so I really should be doing that rather than poncing on the internet.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Cocktail hour

I am quite unashamedly a drunken strumpet. Here I am being all drunkenly strumpety at University (in a jumper I knitted of course).

Here are a few of my favourite tipples and treats...all homemade of course. Now that's crafty ;)

Irish Cream Liqueur (like Bailey's)
2 tablespoons instant coffee
397g (1 large tin) sweetened condensed milk
150ml (quarter pint) of whiskey (Irish if you can get it)
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Dissolve the coffee in half a pint of boiling water, stir well, put this and all of the other ingredients into a blender and mix until combined. Leave to cool. Transfer into a bottle and place in the fridge. Shake well before serving. Makes three quarters of a pint.

Rain's top tip - for a change substitute one spoon of coffee with one spoon of hot chocolate powder. If you can get them, use the flavoured (Options) hot chocolate powders, mint or orange works especially well.

Bailey’s Fudge
60 ml (1/4 cup) Bailey's
15g (half oz) butter (melted)
340g (12 oz) dark chocolate
2 egg yolks
60 ml (1/4 cup) double (heavy) cream

Melt chocolate pieces, Bailey's and cream together over very low heat. Whisk in yolks, one at a time, mixture will thicken. Whisk in butter. Pour into a lightly greased cake tin and place in fridge until firm.

500ml (2 cups) vodka
500ml (2 cups) water
280g (1 1/4 cups) sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee

Mix sugar, water, coffee together and bring to a slow boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 1 hour. Remove from heat, cover liquid with cling film. Let sit for 12 hours. Add vodka and vanilla, stir well. Pour into a bottle and chill.

What are you waiting for? It's 5 o'clock somewhere....

The small print: I bear no responsibility for any state you get yourself into when partaking in these goodies, I will however laugh my socks off if you produce any interesting coloured vomit. I'm only missing blue in the Rainbow Sick Club.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Workstation Stash

I don't think I'm quite at S.A.B.L.E proportions (Stash Amassed Beyond Life Expectancy) but I'm getting there. We won't even go into my Mum's stash, that's a whole different animal - between the two of us I think we could stock a shop. My Mum knew she'd created a monster when she realised she had a 9 year old with a stash to rival her own. I still have the first ever yarn I proudly bought with my own pocket money. Many years on we're as bad as each other and raid each other's supply.

I've needed to do a good sort out for ages so I dragged everything downstairs for a tidy up. I like my yarn to be bagged and tagged - basically kept clean but easily searchable. There was lots of rewinding, weighing and cataloguing going on. I've updated a spreadsheet to include all of it- easily searchable by weight, amount, type and colour. It's going to be so much easier to match yarn to projects in future. As stashes go it's not the most exciting in the world, mostly acrylic but it keeps me happy. It's funny how there's so much there and yet I still lament that I have nothing to knit with.

I've got it sorted into 9 of the plastic tubs and am determined to keep it tidy. Each tub has something different in it so as long as I don't start moving things around it should behave itself. It was one of those occasions where you wish you'd never started something but it was worth it in the end. We won't go into how I could have cried once I'd finished when I found another bin bag full of yarn that I'd forgotten about. Fortunately it was large amounts that didn't need much sorting.

As far as the knitting has been going I'm still working on gifts, the intended recipients swing by here from time to time so I daren't post them until later. Two of them are my own patterns which for once I've actually written down properly as I've worked, so I should be able to get them up soon. It makes a change from indecipherable squiggles on the back of an envelope. Hmm, I must be ill, all of this organisation isn't right.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

We don't do duvets!

If you grew up in the late 80s you know what I mean. For those of you that don't - Saturday morning tv in the UK was dominated by a magazine type kids show called Going Live with Phillip Schofield and Sarah Greene. The shows were a mishmash of chat, gameshows, cartoons, music and general silliness. Most of the comedy was provided by Trev and Simon who did a series of various short sketches, the most popular of which was probably the Launderette - that didn't do duvets! An unsuspecting film or pop star would be sent in to have a duvet cleaned only to have the giant washing machine explode and be covered in a flurry of feathers - nobody was too famous. To the average 7 year old this was the funniest thing going.

I only bring it up because while I do do duvets, I don't do duvet covers. I hate them. I use them of course, but usually end up wrestling with them in the middle of the night as they never stay closed. Maybe I wriggle more than most because they cause me great trauma. Whether it's press studs or buttons at the opening they rarely stay closed and even if they do the duvet is never in the same place it started by the morning. I've had a quest for ages to find a decent duvet cover as most of mine are darker winter colours, after looking for ages and finding none I particularly liked I fell in love with this fabric and decided to make my own.

My sewing skills are a little ropey, I can't sew in a straight line to save my life, but despite all that I've put one together. With Toggles!

Each corner of the cover has a wee toggle inside and the duvet itself is getting a ribbon loop in each corner. HA! TAKE THAT! The dastardley duvet escapes no more. I've also put a deep fold by the opening as well as press studs so it's going nowhere. If it works each cover I own is getting the toggle treatment.

I had enough fabric to make the duvet cover and two pilllow cases, but didn't find enough for curtains which I'd have liked. It cost around £8 from Abakhan's Fabrics which have warehouses in Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Birkenhead, Mostyn (N Wales) and Stoke-on-Trent. They sell differently than most places - as well as fabric off the roll sold by the metre they also have a large section of roll-ends, offcuts and remnants sold by weight with everything from broidery anglaise to zebra print fur. It's all a bit pot luck and you have to have a good sort through. There's a yarn department too and plenty of haberdashery supplies. Well worth a visit if you live near one.

And for those of you that got the title...

Swing Your Pants!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

At my knits end

I'm having one of those weeks where the sheer amount of knitting to be done is getting overwhelming. My list is getting longer and longer and I'm so impatient I want it all knitted yesterday. I have a clipboard which I put patterns on, scribble my own designs on and generally write notes to myself on. I realised things were getting out of hand when the two sides of A4 of things to knit was without a single space to write anything else on.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I rewrote the list and have it down to a manageable 25 projects over the next 3 months or so. Most of them are quite small. The stuff for me is still on the blog as a constant reminder to knit for myself. It always seems to be my stuff that gets put on the back burner. All future requests for knits are to be met with a 'No' - no explantions or apologies. I get inundated actually, random people I barely know wanting stuff done for babies mostly (I don't mean you Jenny, that gorgeous wee girl of yours is a pleasure to knit for).

Despite my new hardline tactics, I still seem to have been conned by my sister into knitting a cricket jumper for her oldest. She can't get one in his size for love nor money and he's on the school team. First she was buying the yarn and then decided I can make it for his birthday. It's a good job he's my favourite nephew. I've got a pattern from Lena Stengard's Nursery Knitting which I will adapt for him, he's 11 and gangly. He only wants a sleeveless one so it shouldn't take long and I'm considering making it in the round. I can't get the yarn until Saturday so it's delayed until then. Other than that I've done another Tassel Top from Kids Knits by Leslie Anne Price. This seems to be the one item that gets universal approval, it's so cute and babies look adorable in them. It's also a very quick knit as it's in chunky yarn and all garter stitch with the body made in one piece. I've done it in cream and brown again so it'll do for either, but no mitts this time. I have a picture of Sol in his white and navy one and he's too cute for words. It's for whichever summer baby is born first and I'll probably do the same pattern for each of them.

I've also done some little picot boots for Scarlett using the Baby Ugg pattern and adding picot edges.
And I've eventually got round to sewing in the ends on the Peruvian Chullo I made forever ago.

There are a few more knits in progress but as they are gifts it's all a bit hush hush.